Last fall I took my youngest, Hunter, then 7, to the art museum. He was quite prudish and giggly about seeing men nude; he said nothing about the nude women, but had a flushed, awkward look to him...
Flash forward about 9 months. Hunter is now 8 years old.
We spent a Saturday afternoon teaching the kids to make altered art books. Since we left the junk on the dinning room table, the kids (and myself) have been puttering around with creating more pages every now and then.
Just a few days ago, both the kids and myself were cuttin' & pastin' away to our hearts' content while Derek was at work. Des is quite prudish too, and so when she asked for me to hand her a magazine from the pile, I jokingly asked if she wanted the Victoria's Secret catalog.
She turned pink and gave a laughing but emphatic, "No!"
Hunter, seeing her discomfort, asked what it was. When I told him it was a ladies underwear catalog he asked for it.
I gave it to him knowing that A) he was likely only trying to get his sister's goat (or, more likely, to get her to groan), and that B) he's rather prudish himself and would likely blanch at it and put it down in a minute.
But he didn't.
Just seconds before he had been all squirrelly over a "sexy woman" on the front of Interview Magazine, but now, he was completely entranced.
He sat there cutting with what can only be described as "dedicated frenzy".
He made a few comments about how "hot" this one or that one was. After a few of such comments, I simply asked him how he would feel if Des & I were to make those comments about men in their underwear? (I thought Des would puke she turned so green at the idea.) He got the point quickly and said little else.
Well, OK, I did have to have a few such discussions; but they were short and he did seem to absorb them as important and modified his behavior.
He was then pretty quiet -- until he made a mistake.
Suddenly he turned to Des, trying to get her to look at one of his paper ladies. She refused, saying she didn't want to look at them. "But, I accidentally tore part of the page, and now I had to cut her leg off -- does she look OK?" he asked, really worried.
I reassured him it was OK. And that he could cut her off at the waist; she'd fit better on the page that way and no one would know.
"But I like her legs!" he wailed.
So he pasted in his one-legged beauty & continued to work in silent earnest.
"Oh no! Wh-What? Why would they--?"
I turned to look at him frantically paging through the catalog until he sighed and said, "OK, good."
Feeling my question, he said, "They had started to put them in clothes."
"There's nothing wrong with a lady in clothes," I reminded him, "Just as there is nothing wrong with the human body, there is nothing wrong with the body clothed."
"Yeah, but I like their boobs and legs," he said.
"Well, it's natural to notice them and find them pretty," I replied, knowing Des was crimson -- but listening too. "But remember, these ladies have mothers, brothers, maybe even kids; and they laugh & cry and want to do things, just like everyone else. They are not pieces of paper or toys you can just think of as parts. They are people."
"I know," he said thoughtfully. "I just like to look at them."
We each continued to work in silence for a bit. I had to admit, he was far more interested in the altered arts book project than ever before. I mean he liked it before, but usually his max time working on it was 30 minutes at a time; it was at least an hour this time, with no signs of leaving anytime soon.
"Hunter," I said, "You sure seem to like those ladies..."
"What. They are pretty."
"Yeah, but you were just all grossed-out over that other lady on the cover of that magazine," I gestured, "And now...?"
"Mom, you have to face it; I'm growing up."
"Yes, but that was only ten minutes ago," I said.
"Some of us mature faster," he said.
He returned to his cutting and pasting.
I then began to wonder if this was a problem... Should I have let him have the magazine?
But let's face it, the ladies in VS aren't nude and he can see all that and more on the beach or TV.
And I figured at least he was there, with me, having his questions answered & his enthusiasm properly channeled -- without the freak-out to send him into sexual guilt and repression.
I figure that this is far better than discovering the catalog on his own or with a peer (very likely, given how they litter most homes) and having no proper context for understanding. This time with him was a gift.